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If your holiday prerogative calls for a leisurely afternoon among friends over a bottle of French wine, a pot of steamed mussels, and a basket of fresh-baked bread to sop up all the sauce, you need not travel to the City of Lights to find it. Harkening back to the bustling bistros of Paris past, Café des Beaux-Arts cultivates an experience that is decidedly transportive. The indoor-outdoor restaurant sits at the heart of Palm Desert’s buzzy shopping boulevard, El Paseo, offering prime alfresco seating and peoplewatching. Inside, wood paneling, antiqued mirrors, and crimson booths are illuminated by the soft glow of glass pendant lamps. Owners Didier and Christina Bloch have infused the space with touches of retro French décor and playful artwork — the paintings are Christina’s handiwork, while the quirky sculptural objets d’art are all crafted by Didier. New partner Emmanuel Bulteau adds his expertise as a lifelong restaurateur. Paris-born “Manu” moved to the desert from Florence, Italy, two decades ago, charming and welcoming patrons on El Paseo’s restaurant scene before joining Café des Beaux-Arts. You’ll find locals gathered around the circular central bar, unwinding after a round of golf or a workday. Daily happy hour includes drink specials and a vast small-bites menu, with live jazz Wednesdays nights during season. The menu focuses on French fare, breakfast until dessert — from stuffed crepes and duckling à l’orange to artisan cheese plates and profiteroles. One bite and your taste buds will be singing, “Oh là là!” Photography by Jaime Kowal
Celebrating 20 years of bringing a taste of Europe to downtown Palm Springs, Pomme Frite provides an intimate, romantic ambiance for special nights out. The quaint setting evokes a continental café, with its street-side patio on bustling Palm Canyon Drive and the dulcet sounds of French music playing softly in the background. The greatest praise, owner-entrepreneur Jean-Claude Constant says, is when patrons tell him it feels like they’re in Paris or Brussels. “Because of the atmosphere, people feel they are transported to Europe for an evening,” he says. “That’s the best compliment I can get. And I get it frequently.” (Palm Springs Life readers voted Pomme Frite Best of the Best French Restaurant in 2013, 2014, 2018, and 2019.) Popular appetizers include the oven-baked French Onion Soup with “beaucoup” Gruyère cheese, imported escargots, and baked French brie. Steak lovers can choose from several cuts, complemented by brandy-green peppercorn sauce, bearnaise, bordelaise, or blue cheese cream. The signature Flemish-style carbonnade of beef simmers in Belgian beer and is served with pommes frites. Prefer the catch of the day? Opt for salmon, rainbow trout, filet of sole, grilled tiger shrimp and sea scallops, or the California bouillabaisse. Steamed Mediterranean black mussels — a house special — are prepared 12 different ways. Pomme Frite is open seven nights a week from 4:30 to 10:30 p.m. and 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. From January until May, it’s open for lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.